Jul 01

Mets’ July Schedule Makes It Imperative For Alderson To Do Something Now

I couldn’t help but wonder what Mets GM Sandy Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – was thinking last night when his team was shut out for the eighth time. And, the fourth time by a 1-0 score.

Perhaps he was mulling over his Twitter account and what 140-character quips he might treat us with. Hopefully, he was thinking about the July schedule that will define this season. If he was, hopefully he was overcome by a sense of urgency. Somehow, I doubt it.

ALDERSON: Take off the shades and see what's going on.  (AP)

ALDERSON: Take off the shades and see what’s going on. (AP)

Alderson’s first priority when he was hired was to shave the payroll, and then develop a competitive team. He did the payroll bit. Gone are Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Jason Bay. Also gone are Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes.

The payroll is down. Alderson did his job marvelously in that regard, although the parting with Reyes was a bit sloppy. Actually, for a team in New York, the Mets’ payroll of just over $100 million is too low.

For the first time since 2008, the Mets are competitive. They lived off the buffer of an 11-game winning streak in April and go into Wednesday’s game with the Cubs two games over .500 and in second place 3.5 games behind the Nationals. We would have signed up for that in a heartbeat entering the season, but after spending several days in the rarified air of 10 games above .500, we want more.

And, with one solid pitching start after another being wasted, it’s frustrating, if not aggravating, to have Alderson tell us the “market is thin.’’ It makes us angry that he gives the appearance of sitting on his hands.

I don’t care how thin the market is, do something to get some hitting. Michael Cuddyer won’t play before Friday at the earliest. … The bench is ridiculously thin. … The Mets have used three third basemen since David Wright was injured and there’s no prospect of his return.

Quit frankly, waiting for Daniel Murphy to come off the disabled list wasn’t the answer we wanted to hear.

OK, I get it, Sandy, you don’t want to trade any of your top four prospect pitchers – Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz – and that’s fine. At least it is fine for right now.

However, nobody is ringing your phone for Jon Niese, Dillon Gee or Bartolo Colon.

The market might be lean, but it’s your job to find a nugget. It’s your job to push the envelope and put together a package to make a trade for somebody nobody is thinking about. It’s your job to find a taker for Niese and the others. It’s also your job to realistically look at the four foundation pitchers and ascertain their trade value. And, also project who will be hardest to sign and keep. That last thing shouldn’t be too hard to figure out.

What’s better, keeping all four and missing the playoffs, or trading one and possibly getting in?

If the playoffs began today, the Mets would be on the outside with 83 victories. It would be a winning season, but not what we want.

Now that the payroll is manageable, it is your job to do something to make the playoffs happen.

If you can’t, or won’t, make a deal, then I don’t want to hear about not rushing young prospects like Michael Conforto, or Matt Reynolds, or Brandon Nimmo. The young pitchers are here, so let’s see about the young hitters. We all know this isn’t really about preserving their fragile psyche as much as it is delaying the service time clock. If you wait too long, the window might be closed.

And, by a window I mean July’s brutal schedule that includes three games with the Giants, seven with the Dodgers, three with St. Louis and four with Washington. Of those 17 games, only five are at home.

Let’s face it, the season could be over by July 31 and you know it. Moves must be made now.

Sandy, you and ownership asked the Mets’ fan base to be patient and they have. Now that they see a glimmer of what could be, they want it. And, it is your job to deliver.

Now, do your job.

Jun 30

Projecting Mets’ Bullpen When Mejia Returns

Although Bobby Parnell has pitched well for the Mets since coming off the disabled list, I’m figuring Jenrry Mejia will assume to the set-up role to Jeurys Familia when he’s activated from his suspension next week.

I thought the Mets would sever ties with Mejia after he was nailed for PEDs, but the erratic performance of their bullpen made that implausible. However, should the Mets qualify for the playoffs, Mejia would not be eligible.

Familia should remain in the closer role, followed by Mejia and Parnell. Should the Mets stay with seven relievers, I’m thinking right-handers Carlos Torres and Logan Verrett would stay in the bullpen along with left-handers Alex Torres and Sean Gilmartin with Hansel Robles going down.

Including Dillon Gee, the Mets have used 12 relievers this season.

Jun 29

Assessing Trade Value Of Jon Niese

With the emergence of Steven Matz, expect the Mets to ratchet up their intent to trade from their pitching depth to bolster their anemic offense. The Mets would dearly like to find a taker or two for Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon on the major league level; Dillon Gee in the minors; and Rafael Montero, who has spent much of the season on the disabled list.

NIESE: What is his value? (AP)

NIESE: What is his value? (AP)

Of course, interested teams inquire about Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matz, but are turned down. They don’t even both to ask about Matt Harvey, anymore.

Of the the four the Mets most want to trade, Niese has the greatest upside to bring in a bat.

Colon, at 41, won’t attract anything more than a lower level mediocre prospect at best. Gee won’t bring much more. Montero, if included in a package, could bring in the most, but he’s coming off an elbow injury.

Niese, however, at 28, is left-handed, now seemingly healthy, signed to a reasonable contract and has had some degree of success. Niese’s career record is 55-58, but with a respectable 3.89 ERA and average 1.368 WHIP. The ERA is what is most attractive, with the mediocre record attributable to the Mets’ porous bullpen and poor hitting.

Last year, Niese logged 187.2 innings in 30 starts while going 9-11. That’s indicative of a pitcher not afraid to take the ball. That could have value to the Cubs and Dodgers, the teams reportedly interested in Niese.

Assuming Niese remains healthy, a buying team can figure on getting innings, and will undoubtedly have the belief he would benefit from a change of scenery.

Naturally, money will always factor into any deal.

Niese will make $7 million this year, which means roughly a $3.5 million investment for the remainder of this year. Niese will earn $9 million in 2016; $10 million for 2017; and $11 million in 2018. Those are palatable salaries, and making it more attractive is the final two years have team options.

However, what must be remembered in dealing Niese to a potential contender is that if a team is in contention it likely wouldn’t want to deal a major league ready hitter. And, the Mets don’t want prospects as they believe they are capable of winning now.

Consequently, a team wanting Niese likely wouldn’t offer much, which is usually the tact the Mets have when they want to make a trade.

Jun 28

Matz Makes It All Right For One Day

Quality start doesn’t even begin to describe what Steven Matz gave the Mets today at Citi Field in his major league debut. His pitching, power and poise highlighted a 7-2 victory over Cincinnati. He also broke up a double play and started one after fielding a hard comebacker to the mound.

“He was as good as advertised,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “He was ready for this. It was time. … He was ready to show he belonged.’’

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

MATZ: Shines in debut. (AP)

Matz was making his major league debut five years removed from Tommy John surgery; after the Mets toyed with the decision to bring him up; and, after more than a three-hour delay so the Mets could finish a 2-1 victory over the Reds in a completion of suspension game.

“The more time I had, the more the anxiety went away,’’ said Matz, a sign of his composure.

His composure also surfaced when his first pitch of the game was something out of “Bull Durham,’’ a fastball to the backstop. On his fifth pitch, Tony Phillips hit a replay-reviewed homer.

Matz set the Reds down in order in the second and then, using Las Vegas teammate Matt Reynolds’ bat, ripped a two-run double. He would later hit a hit-and-run single and two-run single.

All the while, he toyed with the Reds on the mound, giving up two runs – Todd Frazier also hit a solo homer – on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

Matz went further in his debut than Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler went in theirs.

While Harvey grew up rooting for the Yankees, Matz’s childhood passion growing up on Long Island was the Mets and spent many nights at Shea Stadium. Of course, the Mets want to play on that emotional attachment and as the team struggled through the past month there was a growing groundswell for his promotion. And, for the Mets, it was to attract more than the 130 family and friend he could sometimes hear from the stands.

There’s speculation the Mets promoted Matz to divert frustrated their fan base from their recent plunge in the NL East standings and a woeful offensive slide. That’s for another day, as this one was to enjoy a glimpse into a promising future.

However, while it was gray at Citi Field, there was a glimmer of sunlight, and he wore No. 32.

Jun 25

Collins Must Manage From His Gut Even If Alderson Doesn’t Like It

All the goodwill the Mets fostered during their 11-game winning streak is gone, vanished like a possible Jacob deGrom victory because of a faulty bullpen and no hitting. It faded along with the Mets’ eight-game lead over the Nationals, which is now a 3.5-game deficit.

Sure, the Mets could regroup but what are their chances, but what are the odds?

COLLINS: Where's that smile now? (Mets)

COLLINS: Where’s that smile now? (Mets)

The way I see it, manager Terry Collins is on his own; a life raft in rough waters. Ownership did nothing over the winter to bring in the offensive talent needed, and he’s received no help from GM Sandy Alderson, whose contribution was Michael Cuddyer.

Collins, because of his contract situation, is a lame duck and managing for his job. Because Alderson – the game’s smartest general manager – ripped him in a book, it is clear he doesn’t have any support.

That says it in spades, as if Alderson’s failure to build a quality bullpen and procure the needed hitting to sustain the young starting pitching wasn’t enough.

It is clear the Mets aren’t playing with fire anymore, and part of that is because Collins isn’t showing any himself. It appears he’s been beaten down and frustrated by a front office and ownership that isn’t supportive.

Collins is a long-time baseball man. He knows the right thing to do. He has no control over injuries, but does have over the talent he sends out every night. He also has control in the dugout after the first pitch. Collins must be aggressive and manage the Mets like this is his last chance, because he’s gone after this year. Deep down he has to know that.

I want to see him go out kicking and not meekly collecting a paycheck. Here’s what he needs to do to give the Mets their best chance of winning:

Goodbye pitch counts: Since it is clear there was no plan to begin with, let’s cut the crap. Matt Harvey has twice been pulled late with a 1-0 lead and went on to lose. That’s happened to deGrom once. Give those horses the extra inning.

Curtis Granderson: He’s finally showing some pop, so drop him in the order. Third, fourth, fifth, I don’t care. He’s being wasted hitting leadoff. I advocated this after seeing the Opening Day lineup. It worked for a while, but is failing now.

The answer? I don’t know. I wanted Juan Lagares, but his on-base percentage is dreadful. There is no real solution, but since he’s in the line-up I’m inclined to go with Ruben Tejada, who has decent speed, but I confess is too streaky.

Speaking of Granderson, the best outfield alignment is him in left field and Cuddyer in right. Why that wasn’t done in the first place is ridiculous.

The infield: Eventually we would get to this, but the best solution defensively is to move Wilmer Flores to third base and Tejada to shortstop. The Mets don’t want to because they are afraid of how Flores might react mentally.

If Flores’ ego is that fragile to where he couldn’t handle a switch then maybe he’s not tough enough to play in the major leagues. When Daniel Murphy returns move him to third and Flores to second.

What about David Wright, you ask? The Mets are foolish if they even think he’ll be back anytime soon, and if he does if he’ll play to any resemblance of his former self. It is more and more looking as if the issue of what to do with Wright will be addressed next spring – with another manager.

These are some of the things Collins can do with the 25 players he currently has on his roster. Since he’s not getting any help, he has to go down showing the same fight he wants from his team.

And, if Alderson doesn’t like it, then tell the game’s smartest general manager to fire him, because what the hell, it will happen soon enough.